Life, it seems, is always in transition. Or perhaps it is a series of transitions that we experience on this fast boat as we whiz through time and participate in endings and beginnings, with learning opportunities thrown into the mix. So it feels, when one season overlaps another.

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant. If we did not taste adversity then prosperity would not be so welcome. ~ Anne Bradstreet

s3a-the crew

And so this morning, I enjoyed the opportunity to experience the natural transition from winter to spring at Sebago Lake State Park with a group of seven led by AMC volunteer JoAnne Diller. (JoAnne donned the lime green coat.)

s1- Ice on Songo River

We began our journey at the boat launch beside Songo River, where signs warned of thin ice and Canada geese honked in the distance.

s2-Songo River curves

Tree buds added a subtle hint of color to the landscape. And the ice in the oxbow indicated nights of cooler temps followed by days of warming.

s3-Jan examines beech scale insect

Trees within the forest showed other signs of change for we noted the cinnamon tinge on many a beech tree. Not all transitions were good.

The trees were dotted with the waxy exterior winter coating of the beech scale insect, Cryptococcus fagisuga, a tiny insect that sucks sugar and other nutrients from beech trees only.

Soon, the beech scale insect will molt into its second, legless nymph stage and emerge. Immediately, it will start sucking sap through its tubular mouthpart or stylet. That instar stage doesn’t last long, and quickly it will become a mature female. For the rest of its life it will remain sedentary, but repeatedly remove and reinsert its piercing stylet, wounding the tree and providing entry points for fungi to enter. An interesting fact about beech scale insects–its a world of females who reproduce by parthenogenesis; there are no known males.

But what about that cinnamon color? Was it a fungus? Or was it related to the insects? Yes and yes. Two species of nectria fungi are associated with beech bark disease, Nectria coccinea var. faginata and Nectria gallengia. What we examined was a large area of the former’s fruiting bodies.

s4-Y in the road

For the most part we followed the groomed trail system, though we did do some post holing as we crossed from one route to another. And then we came to a fork in the road–so we took it! Actually, first we went left and along the way startled some deer. And realized we weren’t exactly where we wanted to be so we backtracked and journeyed on to the right. How often does that happen on this boat ride? Frequently. But the best part about today was that no one complained because we were all happy to travel the trail and enjoy the world around us.

s5-beach on Sebago Lake

At last we arrived at the beach on Sebago Lake, where snow and sand in the cove and small bits of ice moving with the gentle waves spoke of what is to come.

s7-pitch pine

It was at the same spot, where we paused at a picnic table to eat a snack, that we stood in awe of the pitch pines as they showed off their plates of bark thickened by age and unique manner of needles growing from the trunk.

s8-pitch pine cone

Even their cones, each scale topped with a rigid prickle, were beginning to break down as they began their journey of giving back to the earth.

s9-tree roots

But what struck us the most were the tree roots all along the beach. And we began to wonder what had happened.


How old were the trees? Had the sand eroded?


Was the lake once much higher? And how do those trees survive? If only they could talk, we would hear their stories of pounding waves and raging storms. And maybe other adversities. Maybe they do talk and we just don’t know how to listen.

s13-back to the river

In what seemed like a flash, I realized we were on the opposite end of the oxbow I’d photographed when we first arrived–our journey had been a circular one, well sorta.


By the boat launch two channel buoys waited patiently for spring to return in full force so they could move onto the river and do the job for which they were best suited.

s15-Canada geese

We took one last look before saying our goodbyes and going our own ways on this journey we call life. That’s when we spied the Canada geese–a sure sign that spring really is just around the corner.

Thank you, JoAnne, for organizing such a delightful hike and allowing us to absorb the richness of the woods, river and lake as they remind us about the transitions in life.

*And Tom, this trek is for you, and your own transition.  Love all.


Back Soon Mondate

We headed south today in search of spring. LOL! Indeed, we found as much snow on Sawyer Mountain in Limington as we have in western Maine.


The mountain was a new one for us. It featured two trailheads and we chose the one on Route 117 where only one map was available. We borrowed it and later returned it for others.

Much of the mountain, as in 1,472 acres, was purchased over the course of eleven years by the Francis Small Heritage Trust. According to an article in the Portland Press Herald written by hiking enthusiast Carey Kish in May 2016, “Francis Small, the namesake of the trust, was a fur trader and landowner who lived from 1625 to 1714. Small is said to have owned the largest amount of land of any person who has ever lived in Maine.

In 1668, Small operated a trading post a few miles northwest of Sawyer Mountain, at the confluence of the Ossipee and Saco rivers and the crossroads of three major Native American travel routes, the Sokokis Trail (now Route 5), the Ossipee Trail (now Route 25) and the Pequawket Trail (now Route 113).

Newichewannock Abenaki tribesmen who owed debts to Small plotted to kill him to avoid payment. Their chief, Wesumbe, warned Small in time to foil the plan, but not before Small’s home was burned to the ground.

To compensate for the loss, Chief Wesumbe sold Small 20 square miles of land for two large Indian blankets, two gallons of rum, two pounds of powder, four pounds of musket balls and 20 strings of beads.

Small’s Ossipee Tract was bounded by the Saco, Great and Little Ossipee, and Newichewannock (later Salmon Falls) rivers, and included today’s towns of Limerick, Limington, Cornish, Newfield and Parsonsfield, the area where Francis Small Heritage Trust works to conserve land.”

s1a-trail sign

Wooden blocks with yellow turtles carved into them blazed the trail. According to Kish, “This is the mark of Captain Sandy, also known as Chief Wesumbe, of the Newichewannock Abenaki tribe.” Having been a turtle enthusiast for most of my life, I smiled each time I saw one.

s3-Camp Ticumoff

Not everyone felt the same way. Less than a half mile up, we came upon a cabin beside the trail. It had been named Camp Ticumoff. Say it slowly.

s4a--guided turtle hunts

Zooming in on the side of the cabin, we noted a sign–“Guided Turtle Hunts.” And there was another sign as well about the Francis Small Heritage Trust being an ethically challenged organization. We weren’t sure what it was all about, but obviously not all were thrilled with the trail that we immensely enjoyed.

s5-Estes cemetery

Continuing on, we came across the first of several cemeteries. With the snow so deep, we didn’t climb up to inspect the gravestones more carefully.

s6-Estes grave

But in the center stood a marker recognizing various members of the Estes family. Salome died March 30, 1874, aged 66 years, 11 months and 6 days. We often see that in old cemeteries–the number of days into the person’s final month indicated.

s7-caution sign

As we crossed over a brook, a caution sign gave an indication of its own–did I mention how deep the snow was?

s8-Turtle cemetery

And then we found another turtle reference–on the negative side. Definitely some unhappy neighbors in the old ‘hood.

s8a--large foundation

We were in an old ‘hood, after all, for most of our journey was along Sawyer Mountain Road, which was discontinued over one hundred years ago. Left behind were not only cemeteries, but also foundations, this one quite large and I wasn’t sure if it was a home or a barn.

s9-trail map

Right by the foundation, we stood for a few minutes and examined a trail map.

s10-phoebe nest

Apparently others have examined it as well, and decided it suited them. I wasn’t surprised. Kiosks often serve as nest sites for Eastern Phoebes, which I trust will return soon.

s11-deer feeding site

It was about a mile and a half to the spur trail that led to the summit. All along, we noted the lack of mammal activity. Not total lack, for occasionally we did see squirrel tracks, but that was all. And then on the spur we found lots of deer activity–where they’d pawed through the snow in search of last year’s acorns.


Apparently they don’t have a feeding station like the deer in our neighborhood.


At last, we reached the summit, the site of a whale oil lighthouse used for navigation within Portland Harbor during the eighteenth century. It’s our understanding that the mountain is visible from the ocean so sailors would line up the light with other points to guide their ships into the harbor. We had hoped for a view of the ocean, but as it turned out, the summit was rather anticlimactic. To the northwest, we did catch a glimpse of Sebago Lake, but that was about it as too many trees had taken over the space. It didn’t matter too much as we’d enjoyed the climb and the history, both old and new, encountered along the way.

s13-hiking down in deep snow

After sharing lunch on two tree stumps at the summit, we began our journey down, again traveling through deep snow.

s14-Old David Walker Burying Ground

Because we were on our way down and no one had previously carved a trail to another cemetery, we decided to go for it. We’re not sure what the sign meant–was David Walker old? Or had his burying ground been moved to another site?

s15--John Walker gravestone

Up a hill, we located a small plot with a couple of stones. The first was for John Walker, who died in 1863.

s16-cleaning off a stone

And then another leaning against a granite pillar–so my guy wiped the snow away.

s17--Ebenezer Walker

That one was for Ebenezer Walker. So where was Old David Walker buried?

s19-nature trail sign

Back at the trailhead, I decided to loop around the nature trail while my guy headed to the truck. A sign said a nature trail map would be available at the trailhead, but I found none.

s20-blue turtle

And so I followed the blue turtles and decided to interpret the trail my way.

s21-young pines?

1. White pines: the Maine state tree, took advantage of the clearing and started to fill in the space.

s22-stone wall

2. Stories in granite: A stone wall at least four feet high; a lacy wall perhaps built to keep sheep in or out.

s23-hemlock stand

3. Hemlock grove: The perfect habitat for mammals, including deer. Because of their evergreen leaves (needles) that hold snow, its easier for critters to move below them.

s24-beech trees

4. A Mixed Forest: Beech, maples, oaks, hemlocks, pines–all living together in harmony of sorts.

s25-glacial eratics

5. Glacial erratics: Large boulders dropped by the last glaciers about 12,000 years ago.

s26-ledge and life on a rock

6. Life on a ledge: From lichens and mosses to  hemlock trees, the ledge was a prime example of the abiotic and biotic interactions that create an ecosystem.

s27-downed trees? summer storm?

7. I dunno: A piece of blue flagging and another of orange. Perhaps it was the downed trees to the left–several hemlocks had fallen during a storm with winds out of the southeast–indicating a summer storm probably.

s28-not sure

8. I Dunno Ditto: Perhaps the stream that flowed just below.

s29-pine tree?

9. Big White Pine: But really, was it the tree?

s30-giant boulders

Or the giant boulders beside it?

Perhaps one day, I’ll learn how I did on the quiz–though I do think I got at least two wrong.

s4-no one home

I rejoined my guy and together we reflected upon our journey. One of the things we most enjoyed was the historical features along the way, including the 1940s hunting camp built by the father of Sherwood Libby, one of the Trust’s founders.

s34-Be back soon

And our absolute favorite–a sign on the hunting camp door–“Went out for supplies. Be back soon.”

We will also return–once the snow melts– for there’s so much more to see, as well as other trails to explore. What a fine place for a Mondate on this last day of winter. Be Back Soon. Indeed.

Beside Browns Pond

One should not work from home for then it is much too easy to do an about face with plans for the day and hit the trail before meeting deadlines. But alas, that is how I found myself on the Chessey Property this morning. It just seemed to make more sense to head out early in the day, rather than wait until the end to reward myself.


The 100-acre property Chessey Property was forever protected from development under a conservation easement with the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust. Though I’d passed by numerable times, I had never before ventured that way.

c1-trail sign

And so this morning I decided to rectify that and drove to the trailhead. Actually, I drove past the trailhead, spotted the large cemetery on my left and turned around. The sign was facing in the opposite direction and easy to miss. Because the trail was only a half mile long, I figured it would be a quick trip. Apparently, I don’t know myself very well.


I hadn’t tramped far when I realized I was moving in the opposite direction of one whose ancestors had inspired my own mode of transportation.  The start of the trail is a field in early succession and so it made sense to find snowshoe hare prints crisscrossing the opening.

c3-red fox

But . . . it wasn’t just a hare that had moved atop the snow. The print size and stride told me a red fox had also traveled there–and not too long before I’d arrived. To add to my identification was the chevron visible in the front foot print. Do you see what the arrows indicate?

c4-red fox track

I didn’t follow the track, and so I wasn’t sure if I was looking at prints made by one fox or perhaps two. My gut told me one and that the back foot didn’t always land exactly in the impression of the front.

c5-hare and fox cross tracks

Nor do I know how the story ended–for the fox crossed the hare’s tracks. Did the two ever actually meet?

c12-speckled alder

In the same area I found speckled alder, so named for its bark speckled with pores or lenticels. Its red and maroon catkins grew longer–well, at least the male catkins. The shorter catkins are the females, for alders are monoecious–male and female flowers grow on the same plant. As March gives way to April, the male color will deepen to burgundy, while the females will turn bright red–in full blush.

c13-pussy willows

Another color also caught my attention–pussy willows with their furry little silver flower buds just opening. The soft tufts earned their common name due to their resemblance to tiny kitten paws.

c6-my tracks

All of that, and I hadn’t gone far from my truck. But, by the depth of my impressions, you can see that my travel would be slow for no one had packed the trail before me.

c7-water obstacle

I journeyed on, stopping every ten to twenty steps to look around, listen, and catch my breath. Tracking was almost impossible once I ventured into the forest for snow drops from the trees created their own random impressions. Water obstacles were a bit of a challenge, but I managed to manipulate around all four. And bird song included the throaty caws of Ravens. At one point I heard their powerful wing beats and looked up to see three chasing another bird that I couldn’t identify.

c10-face in the snow

But never fear, though I couldn’t find tracks as I continued, I found plenty of other things to look at, including a tilted snow mask, and . . .

c11-snow art

snow sculptures. How does snow do that? Worth a wonder, indeed.

c8-otter tracks:slide

I’d almost reached the turn around point when I recognized a pattern by my feet and realized an otter had passed that way–probably yesterday based on the state of the slides, prints, and scat. One really cool thing that I learned as I followed its trail was that every once in a while it tunneled under the snow. I don’t know that I’ve ever noted that behavior previously. Most of its tunnels were about ten feet long and then it emerged again to bound and slide.

c9-Browns Pond

At last I turned my attention to the 110-acre pond that opened before me. It’s my understanding that it remains undeveloped–a rare feat in these parts. I wanted to stay and explore, but knew I had to save it for another day because work really did sit at home awaiting my attention. I trust I’ll return in another season when the traveling isn’t quite as difficult, but until then this morning’s moments beside Browns Pond will sustain me.




Hunkered Down

Three nor’easters in two weeks. Such is March in New England. The latest delivered over twenty inches of snow beginning yesterday morning. And still the flakes fall.


But staying inside all day would be much too confining and so I stretched my legs for a few hours before giving my arms another workout with driveway cleanup duty. It was much more fun to explore and listen to the chickadees sing.

p-snow on trees

There are a few places in our woods that I find myself stopping to snap a photo each time a snowstorm graces our area. The stand of pines with their trunks snow coated was one such spot yet again. And tomorrow the scene will transform back to bare trunks and so it was one I was happy to behold in the moment.

p-snow on limbs

As was the older pine that grows beside a stonewall along the cowpath and perhaps served as the mother and grandmother of all the pines in my forest–bedecked in piles of flakes, her arms reached out as if to embrace all of her offspring.

p-snow on insulators

With the snow so deep, I felt like a plow as I powered through under the insulated insulators.

p-snow on park sign

Finally, I reached one of the entryways to Pondicherry Park and while I love being the first of the day to leave my mark, I’d secretly hoped someone had trudged before me. But . . . a few steps at a time meant taking frequent breaks to rest and look around.

p-snow on tree trunk

Again, it was the snow’s manner of hugging tree trunks that drew my awe.

p-snow on tree trunk 2

Sometimes it reminded me of giant caterpillars climbing into the canopy.

p-snow on roots

Even the roots of a downed tree took on an artistic rendition.

p1-snow on bittersweet

And that most invasive of species in these woods, bittersweet, offered curves worth appreciating–ever so briefly, of course.

p-snow on fences

Snow blanketed fences of stone and wood.

p-snow on bridge

Enhanced the bridge.

p-snow on bench

And buried a bench.

p-Stevens Brook

Beside Stevens Brook, it looked as if winter still had a grasp though we’re about to somersault into spring.

p-snow on trees reflected

And the reflection in Willet Brook turned maples into birches.

p-kneeland spring

At Kneeland Spring, water rushed forth in life-giving form and the sound was one we’ll soon hear everywhere as streams and brooks overflow.

p-mallards 1

I went not to see just the snow in its many variations, but also the wildlife. I found that like me, the squirrels and deer had tunneled through leaving behind troughs. And the ducks–they didn’t seem at all daunted by the mounds of white stuff surrounding them.

p-mallards 2

In fact, one female took time to preen.

p-mourning dove

I found mourning doves standing watch.


And heard robins singing.

p-snow spider

And because I spent a fair amount of time looking down, I began to notice life by my feet, such as the snow spider–an indicator that the thermometer was on the rise. It lives in the leaf litter, but when the temp is about 30˚ or so, it’s not unusual to see one or more. Today, I saw several. And wished I had my macro lens in my pocket, but had decided to travel light.

p-winter stonefly

Winter stoneflies were also on the move. They have an amazing ability to avoid freezing due to the anti-freeze in their systems.

p-winter dark firefly 2

I also found a winter dark firefly. While the species is bioluminescent, I’m not sure if this one was too old or not to still produce light.

p1-snow on me

At last the time had come for me to head home for not only was the snow still falling, but so was the sky–or so it felt each time a clump hit my head as it fell from the trees.

p-final photo

We’ve got snow! In fact, we’ve got snows! And in reference to a question an acquaintance from Colorado had asked yesterday–“Are you hunkered down?” My answer was, “No, Jan, I’m not. Nor is the world around me. In fact, except for the shoveling, I relish these storms as winter holds on for just a wee bit longer.”



Lovejoy Mondate

A man walked into a hardware store . . . and told my guy about a couple of mountains we should climb. And my guy came home and told me. And we looked for trail maps and found none. And we decided to go anyway because we had a sorta idea about where one of them was located.

l1-Lovejoy Mountain Road

And so we drove up Hunts Corner Road in Albany, Maine, and located a road sign that bore the same name as the mountain we hoped to climb–and the road wasn’t plowed. But . . . another man was gathering mail across the street and so my guy asked him about the trail. The man said it would be fine for us to head in and we’d probably get as far as the pond where a few old camps stood, but wouldn’t reach the summit. We weren’t sure we would either, but figured it was worth a try.

l2-my guy way ahead

For those who have followed our Mondates previously, you’re well aware that my guy is often far ahead of me and such was the case today. The snow was deep and journey up a bit of a trudge, but that didn’t stop him. I really don’t mind for it gives me time to take in all that is around me and listen to the voices in my head. And I’ve a feeling he does the same–solving all the problems of the hardware world and any other issues that need to be addressed, plus possibly singing a few tunes to himself. The latter would never occur to me, but that’s another story.

l3-No Name Pond and Round Mtn

Today, we met periodically, the first time being at No Name Pond, where we enjoyed the backdrop of Round Mountain–a hike we’ve previously completed. Truthfully, this pond has no name–at least that I can find on any topo maps.

l4-bear pole

Onward we journeyed, for a few steps–because a telephone pole caught my attention. Do you see what I see? (Karen H.–I took you with me today and mentioned your name several times to my guy–read on.) Bites and scratches courtesy of a black bear.


And hair left behind. There was actually quite a bit of hair. But . . . I’d forgotten to put the battery in my Canon Rebel camera and so had to depend on my phone to capture all the moments.

l6-onward and upward

We really had no idea where we were going, and when we came to a Y, chose the left-hand route, which had a few water obstacles.


And then we decided to do some bushwhacking because we had no idea where the road might lead and we assumed the mountain was to our right.

l8-Into the Evergreens

It wasn’t totally an assumption, for I’d downloaded a GPS program recently and played with it a bit. The mountain was to our right, but there was a ledge between us and it.

l9-finding our way

And so we did some traversing, and slipping and sliding, and offered each other advice and occasionally a hand. Well, he offered me a hand, which I gladly accepted. And all the while I dreaded our descent, though we figured we’d probably need to sit on our bums and pretend we were otters–belly up.

l10-over the tree

We finally saw the light of day and assumed the summit was just above. Only one more downed tree to conquer.


We did–with lots of giggles thrown in as we practiced our graceful moves.

l12-moose work 1

But, we weren’t at the summit. Instead, we were in moose alley for such was the evidence we found on the numerous striped maple trees.

l13-moose work 2

There were no fresh tracks, but we knew who had dined . . .

l14- moose work 3

by the size of the tooth marks they left behind.

l16-striped maple leaf

Because we were in a striped maple community, my eye was drawn to their moose nipped buds of previous years, but also to the artful twist of occasional dried leaves.

l15- snowshoe hare track

We had also entered snowshoe hare (snow lobster) territory and their tracks were innumerable.

l15-view toward the Balds in Evans Notch

Again, we found ourselves on an old logging road, and then we decided to go off it and bushwhack some more. As we checked the GPS periodically, it showed that we were following a ridge, but still had a ways to trek.

l17-continuing on

We thought we’d been so smart when we left the road, until we swung through the forest and came to a bit of an opening where we realized it was in front of us again. Or at least we thought it was the same road.

l18-winter wonderland

And so we followed it through the winter wonderland.

l19-summit view

And at last, according to the GPS, reached the summit, where the view through the trees was of the Bald Faces in Evans Notch. It wasn’t much of a view–and we wondered if we might have missed one, but decided to save that thought for another time.


After treating ourselves to some dark chocolate McVities digestives, we started to follow our tracks back down. About fifty feet away, we spotted a cairn we’d walked right by–it was large and we didn’t know its purpose. To mark the summit? Or did it represent something else?

l23-bobcat print

On the way back down, we paused again–by some prints I’d seen earlier. Yes, Karen–this one is for you. A bobcat indeed. Because of the deep, soft snow, its nails had provided traction.

l24-hiking down

When we reached the spot where we’d done some bushwhacking, we decided to take a chance and stay on the road. It proved the right choice and soon we picked up our previous tracks.

l25-quartz snag

And then we got to see a couple of other things we’d missed on the way up, like this quartz snag. Huh? Funny things grow in trees ’round these parts.

l28-bear tree 3

And big mammals climb trees ’round these parts.

l27-bear tree 2

Yes, Karen, another bear tree. 😉

l30-final view

Just below that we found ourselves back at the point where we’d climbed up the ledge. And discovered that the road turned to the right. Again, we weren’t sure we were making the right choice, but decided to take our chances. Bingo–it eventually curved around and we found our own tracks once again. We were tickled with ourselves and paused by one of the old camps to take in their view–the same view we’d enjoyed from above, but more open because some trees had been cut.

Roger Lowell had suggested this hike to my guy and the man collecting the mail said that the land belongs to the Stiflers, who own Round Mountain, Long Mountain and Overset Mountain, all hikes that we had enjoyed in the past. We weren’t sure the mountain road we were on was open to the public, but we gave thanks to Roger for the suggestion and the Stiflers for not posting the land. And we toasted this Mondate with sips of water–as we appreciated our love and joy for today’s journey–on Lovejoy Mountain.






What the Bobcat Knows

As I drove down Heald Pond Road in Lovell today I wasn’t sure what awaited me. But isn’t that the point? Every venture into the great outdoors should begin as a clean slate and it’s best not to arrive at the trailhead with expectations.

f1-Heald Pond Road barn

And so I didn’t. Well, sorta. I really wanted to see a porcupine. And maybe an otter. And definitely an owl. But I knew better and so I passed the last barn on the road and then backed up and stepped out, captivated by the colors in the scene before me.

f2-trail signs

A few minutes later, I strapped on my snowshoes and headed up the trail. My plan–to climb to the summit of Flat Hill at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve and then circle around Perky’s Path upon my return.

f3-trail up flat hill

Breaking trail was my job in the rather deep snow given recent storms, but easy to move upon and so I sashayed up. What surprised me, however, was the lack of tracks left behind by the mammals that I know live in these woods.

f4-pine cone bird feeders

I did stop at the balsam firs decorated by a local 4-H club in December as part of the Maine Christmas Tree Hunt. The dangling pinecones once sported peanut butter and birdseed, but today that was all a memory so I knew birds and deer had stopped by in the last few months.

f5-bobcat 1

And then, as I neared the flat summit, I found tracks of a mammal that had checked out the base of every tree and under every downed limb. In fact, as I soon realized, it was more than one mammal that I followed as I went off trail. Bobcats. Indeed. Though typically solitary, these two traveled together. It is mating season and males and females will travel together during courtship.

f11-bobcat print

Though the prints were difficult to photograph given the glare, by the toes, ridge and overall shape, I knew them.

f12-bobcat scat and print

And scat! Filled with white hair. I have close-up views should you choose a closer look, but chose to give those who find scat to be rather disgusting a break. 😉

f6-porcupine and bobcat

And then I found another set of tracks and knew that besides squirrels and little brown things, the bobcats were also searching for a bigger dinner. On the left–a porcupine trough, and on the right, the bobcat trail.

f8-porky work

Ever since I’ve traveled this trail, I’ve seen the work of the porcupines at the summit. And sometimes I even get to see the creator. In winter, porcupines eat needles and the bark of trees, including hemlocks, birch, beech, aspen, oak, willow, spruce, fir and pine. And they leave behind a variety of patterns.

f7-porky work

If I didn’t know better, I could have been convinced that this ragged work was left behind by a chiseling woodpecker, but it, too, was porcupine work.

f9-porky work

All about the summit, recent chews were easily identified for the inner bark was brighter than the rest of the landscape. And below these trees–no bark chips such as a beaver would leave, for the porcupine consumed all the wood.

f10-flat hill view

While snow flurries fluttered around me, the summit view was limited and it looked like the mountains were receiving more of the white stuff. (Never fear–we’ll get more as our third Nor’easter in two weeks or so is expected in two more days. Such is March in Maine.)

f13-script lichen between pine lines

From the summit, rather than follow the trail down, I tracked the bobcats for a while, first to the north and then to the south. I had hoped to find a kill site, but no such luck. Instead, the writing on the page was found upon the pines where script lichen, a crustose, was located between the lines of bark scales.

f14-ulota moss and frullania

I also found plenty of Frullania, that reddish brown liverwort that graced so many trees. And among it, a moss I’ll simply call an Ulota. As I looked in Ralph Pope’s book, Mosses, Liverworts, and Hornworts , upon arriving home, I realized I should have paid attention to capsules for that would have helped me determine whether what I saw was Ulota crispa or Ulota coarctata. Another lesson for another day.

f15-beaver pond on Perky's Path

At last I reached Perky’s Path, which may not seem like a major feat if you’ve been there, but actually I’d explored off trail for quite a ways and it took me a while to get down to the wetland.


And because I was in the wetland, maleberry shrubs bordered the edge and showed off their bright red buds and woody, star-shaped seedpods.

f16a-bobcat across wetland

After focusing on them for a while, I looked down at the snow’s surface and the most subtle of prints appeared before my eyes. My two bobcats. The curious thing–at the summit the mammals had sunk into the snow and the prints were a bit difficult to decipher. I assumed those summit impressions had been made about two days ago. But on the wetland, the bobcats walked atop the snow–when conditions were firmer and I suspected they’d been created last night.

f17-brook toward Bradley Pond 1

I followed the edge of the wetland to the bridges that cross a brook that forms at the outlet of Bradley Pond, constantly on the lookout for the bobcat tracks again.

f18-more bobcat

And I found them! Beside the brook.

f19-beaver pond from bridge

What had they found on the wetland, I wondered?

f21a-beaver trail

Continuing on, I found that they’d checked on the woodwork left behind by another critter of these woods who had also moved about last night.

f20-beaver works

Beaver works. And their piles of woodchips. Unlike a porcupine, a beaver doesn’t eat the chips. Rather, it cuts down a tree for food or a building material. The chips are like a squirrel’s midden of cone scales–the garbage pile of sorts.

f22-beaver trail to water

I noted where the beaver had moved into the brook . . .

f23-beaver treats

And left some sticks behind. For future food? Future building? Stay tuned.

f27-brook to Bradley pond

Typically in other seasons I can’t move beside the edge of the brook, but today I could. The lighting kept changing and water reflected the sky’s mood.

f24-Diamesa sp. and snow flea

And because I was by the water, I kept noting small insects flying about–almost in a sideways manner. Then I found some on the snow–a member of the Diamesa species, a midge I believe. And do you see the small black speck below it–a snowflea, aka spring tail.

f25-Diamesa sp.:haltere

And do you see the two little nobs on the fly’s back, the red arrow pointing to one? Those are the haltere: the balancing organ of a two-winged fly; a pair of knobbed filaments that take the place of the hind wings.

f29-beaver pond wetland low

Eventually, I followed the eastern edge of the wetland back to my truck, wondering if there was any more action but found none. In fact, the water was low so I knew the beaver works weren’t to rebuild the dam. Yet. Nor did I find any more bobcat tracks. But I’d found enough. And I think I know some of what the bobcat knows.